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Austen to Zafón

Reading widely since 1972.

Currently reading

A London Family, 1870-1900: A Trilogy
Molly Hughes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas
All the Names
José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor
Down the Garden Path
Beverley Nichols
Virtue Betray'd, Or, Anna Bullen
John Banks
Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome
Illusion in java
Gene Fowler
Ralph The Heir (Nonsuch Classics) - Anthony Trollope Apparently Trollope thought this was his worst novel. He said that he thought it almost "justified that dictum that a novelist after fifty should not write love-stories." Hmm. Well, I never did think authors were the best assessors of their own work. I thoroughly enjoyed it myself. Politics, love, and a great wit on the author's part made this a story I could hardly wait to get back to. It was originally serialized in a magazine, so it has that breathless pace that many of Dickens's novels did, where we are left hanging somewhat at each installment, eager to know what happens next. Soap operas really, but with deeper characters and vastly superior language. What's amazing is that *no* new edition of this book was printed anywhere between 1978 and 1978. So this book when virtually unread for 100 years!

The main story is about Ralph, heir to an estate that his uncle is currently enjoying. Trouble is, the uncle has an illegitimate son that he wants to inherit the estate and he is trying to force Ralph the Heir, who has gotten himself into embarrassing debt, to sell it to him. But there are many other stories going on too. Thomas Underwood, a man with 2 grown daughters and who was Ralph's guardian, decides to stand for Parliament and that is a story unto itself. I learned a lot about politics at that time. I thought it was strange to have a political story embedded in what is mostly a story about love and inheritance, but then I found out that it was an autobiographical portrait of Trollope's own miserable experience trying to win a seat in parliament!

I found Trollope's characters detailed and pretty fair on the whole (except for Jewish people who are portrayed as money lenders and sharks. Sigh. I find this in many of the novels of the day and it's upsetting. It's like reading books of the same era by american authors who use the N word.). Most characters have flaws and Trollope does not excuse them, but he also make efforts to show the good side of people too. The women, who were often portrayed quite one-dimesionally in that era (1870s), are mostly given fair treatment too. In fact, better it seems to me than the men. I guess he was known for that even in his own time; quite the shocking feminist. My favorite female character is Polly, a breeches-maker's daughter who cheerfully but quite firmly stands up to men, including her father, who each want her to marry to suit their own needs. I also thought her father was hilarious. He's determined to get his daughter married "above her station" and damn the consequences. He means well, poor dear, but he's a cantankerous and stubborn as a mule.

Maybe I'm just one of those weird people who love Henry James and Thackeray and Dickens, but if this is Trollope's worst novel, I'm hell-bent for leather to read his "good" ones!